Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Understanding the friction between human fingers and contacting surfaces

By Sarah Elizabeth Tomlinson


Friction tests were carried out to assess the friction between a human finger \ud and contacting surface, in different conditions. Tests examined the effect of \ud normal force, the area of contact, the effect of triangular and rectangular \ud cross-section ridges and the effect of moisture. \ud \ud The tests found that when a finger is contacting a nominally flat surface, the \ud friction force increases with normal force, following a two part linear \ud relationship. This is associated with a large initial deformation of the finger, \ud followed by a smaller scale deformation, after a certain load. \ud \ud The introduction of water to the contact results in an initial increase, which is \ud followed by a decrease, in friction. There are two principal mechanisms \ud responsible for this increase; water absorption to the stratum corneum, and \ud capillary adhesion. These mechanisms increase friction by increasing the \ud area of contact, and therefore the amount of adhesion. \ud \ud When the finger is contacting a ridged surface, triangular ridges display a \ud higher friction force than rectangular ridges. This is thought to be due to the \ud larger penetration depth that is possible with triangular ridges. The main \ud mechanisms of friction for the triangular ridges are adhesion and interlocking \ud friction. The main mechanisms of friction for the larger, rectangular ridged \ud surfaces are adhesion, ploughing friction and a reduction in friction force due \ud to an energy return from the finger forming back to its original shape. These \ud tests showed that for a large friction force, surfaces should have high, narrow \ud and widely spaced ridges. This, however, is at the expense of consistent \ud friction across the surface. \ud \ud The understanding gained was then applied to the area of rugby ball design. \ud Tests showed that the existing rugby ball surface designs with the highest \ud friction were ones with pyramid pimples. However, rounded pimpled \ud surfaces performed more consistently across all test conditions

Publisher: Mechanical Engineering (Sheffield)
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2006). (International Rugby board). Law 2 The ball, Playing Charter.
  2. (2001). and Immunology TUoM. Hand Washing Instructions;
  3. (2007). In vivo estimation of stratum corneum thickness from water concentration profiles obtained with Raman spectroscopy,
  4. Launch Characteristics for elite Rugby Union Players,
  5. (2005). Tribology of polymers: Adhesion, friction, wear, and mass-transfer,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.